The Weimaraner, Germany’s sleek and swift “Gray Ghost,” is beloved by hunters and pet owners alike for their friendliness, obedience, and beauty. They enjoy exercise, and plenty of it, along with lots of quality time with their humans.
The Weimaraner was a secret for many years among the German aristocracy, but good specimens began arriving in America by the late 1920s. The breed’s U.S. popularity as a pet and hunting dog took off in the 1950s, with such celebrity owners as President Eisenhower, movie star Grace Kelly, and photographer and artist William Wegman, who became world famous for his Weimaraner portraits.
Weimaraners are 23 to 27 inches tall and weigh 55 to 90 pounds. Instantly recognized by their distinctive silvery-gray coat, Weimaraners are solid colored, with maybe a small white spot on the chest. Another appeal is their light amber, blue-gray, or gray eyes.
Weimaraners are one of the easiest breeds to groom. Weekly brushing with a bristle brush should keep his coat and skin healthy. Weimaraners shed, but brushing will help keep loose hair off your clothes and furniture. Even when they have been running through mud, the dirt just seems to fall off him. To make his silvery coat shine, wipe him down with a chamois. Bathe when needed. The biggest job in grooming the Weimaraner is keeping the nails short. When nail length gets out of hand, it’s difficult to get it back to a proper length; if you can hear tapping when they cross a hard floor, the nails are too long.
Weimaraner life expectancy is 10 to 13 years. The typical Weimaraner is friendly, fearless, alert, and obedient, all traits that make him an excellent companion and watchdog. He’s also assertive, smart, restless, and willful. This is a dog who will take over the household if you give him a chance. He’ll chew, bark, chase cats, and steal the roast off the counter if you don’t give him the socialization, training, and structure he needs throughout his life. Aggression and shyness are temperament flaws that are seen in this breed. They must be dealt with early and may require the assistance of a behaviorist or experienced trainer to avoid serious behavior problems such as biting. Some Weimaraners have a low tolerance for small, furry animals, such as rabbits, and even cats and dogs. Until you know your dog well, watch him carefully when small animals are around.
Be sure your yard is escape-proof. Weims are Houdinis when it comes to confinement, and they’re very good at learning how to open doors and gates and jump over or dig under fences. In the house, a mature, well-trained Weimaraner will be your shadow, from bedroom to bathroom to kitchen to den. A Weimaraner puppy is a challenge and requires careful supervision. He can be a destructive chewer and difficult to housetrain. Weimaraners of any age with separation anxiety, which is not unusual in this breed, can become destructive and may “dig” in your carpet or sofa in an attempt to create a secure nest.
Caring for a Weimaraner
Next, we’ll go into how you should care for a Weimaraner.
Generally, Weimaraners are good eaters. In fact, they will eat their dinner and then try to eat the bowl. Owners should feed a highly rated food that has a moderately high protein content. If feeding kibble, some people add water to the dry food. If the dry food is enhanced with canned food or table scraps, be careful not to add too much. Rich food can upset their digestion.
Any diet should be appropriate to the dog’s age. Check with your vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s weight or diet. Clean, fresh water should be available at all times.
Weimaraners need a couple of hours of exercise daily if you want to prevent recreational barking, chewing and digging. Play fetch and other running games, take him jogging, hiking or hunting, teach him to run alongside your bicycle, or get him involved in dog sports such as agility or flyball. This highly active dog needs a large, securely fenced yard where he can run; without it, they’re likely to become nervous and high-strung. They can be quite a handful, with loads of energy to burn, and the intelligence to figure out how to get into trouble all on their own.
Weimaraners are highly intelligent, but they’re also independent thinkers. That combination can make them a challenge when it comes to training. Be consistent and firm, but gentle. The Weimaraner is sensitive and doesn’t respond well to anger, but you must be able to say “No” and mean it. Keep training sessions short and interesting, and always end them when he’s done something right so you can praise him for a job well done. Last but not least, hold tight to your sense of humor. Your Weimaraner may or may not do as you ask, depending on any number of factors.
Weimaraners are generally healthy, but they’re prone to certain health conditions, including the following:
- Hip Dysplasia: A heritable condition in which the thigh bone doesn’t fit snugly into the hip joint. Some dogs show pain and lameness on one or both rear legs, but you may not notice any signs of discomfort in a dog with hip dysplasia.
- Gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV), aka Bloat or Torsion: A life-threatening condition that can affect large, deep-chested dogs, especially if they are fed one large meal a day, eat rapidly, drink large volumes of water after eating, and exercise vigorously after eating.
- Factor XI Deficiency and von Willebrand’s Disease (vWD): Blood disorders that cause excessive bleeding after an injury or surgery.
- Distichiasis: A condition in which the dog has an extra row of eyelashes that causes irritation and tearing of the cornea.
- Entropion: A condition caused by the lower eyelid folding inward toward the eye, resulting in a chronic irritation of the surface of the eye. It can be corrected through surgery.
- Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA): A degenerative eye disorder that eventually causes blindness.
- Immune-mediated Disease: Some Weimaraner puppies react to vaccinations with fever, elevated white blood count, and inflamed tissues and joints.